Friday, June 26, 2009

Pets for the Elderly

They say cats have the ability to make over 100 different sounds. I believe that’s true. We have a cat—just a common spotted, tabby but she is a dear, little thing and we both love her and spoil her, I’m afraid.

Our cat is eight years old and she does try to talk. There are some words she’s pretty well mastered. When we meet in the morning, I say “hello” and she greets me back. Just as clearly as can be, she says “ha-row.” She certainly can say “no-oh.” As well, she can say my husband’s name—“Al.” She always says “Al” when she wants something. He’s the caregiver in our house. He feeds her and cleans her box and takes her to the vet. I just get to cuddle her. (It’s because I’m in remission from Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—cancer of the immune system.)

She hasn’t learned how to say “Bet-ty” yet, although she does know who that is. She also knows “chicken,” “rabbit”, “squirrel,” “coyote,” “up,” and “outside.” I’m convinced that she is very clever and I’d love to know everything she thinks about, if only we could have a really long conversation.

They also say that a pet is very good for the immune system and will help you to live longer. I believe that as well. When I was going through six months of chemo, just having her sit on my lap, stroking her and listening to her purr took my mind off my nausea and certainly reduced stress.
From what I hear, a lot of retirement homes are bringing in pets for their elderly patients. I think that idea is “purfect.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fame and Deceit

My writer friend, Patti Brook had to put down one of her favourite horses this month. It was a serious blow to her, as she has been riding all her life and she and her husband run a stable in the New England equestrian circuit. She still cries when she thinks of it.

I met Patti on an on-line writing workshop and we have been on-line friends ever since. Although there are many ranches and riding schools in B.C., personally, I’ve only ever ridden once in my life. However, I do think it must be wonderful to be accomplished at it. My one and only experience was in Banff National Park. We were on a camping trip with two other couples and we girls decided to go riding while the fellows tried their hands at canoeing. The steeds we were given were almost in the “nag” category. Later when I showed the picture to a family with children, the little girl laughed and said, “That horsey sleeping.” She pretty much got that right, but it was definitely the best speed for me.

But I digress. Patti’s book “Fame and Deceit” was published this spring and, as an Amazon Vine reviewer, I did a review for it. I’m posting it here as I’m sure, if you follow the equestrian circuit, you will love this book. It’s the first in a mystery series about a horse trainer named Ike Cherney.

“As a protagonist, Ike Cherney is not easy to understand at first. He’s the type of man mothers warn their daughters about. Good looking, arrogant and as much a stud as the stallions he profiles. While testosterone flows freely in this fast paced novel, our hero seems to care more for the horses in his charge than any of his numerous female admirers.
But as he strives to turn the blue blooded horses on his employer’s stud farm into world class show horses and his stable of two-legged fillies keep on handing him problems, we begin to identify with him. First, Lisa, the one woman he may have truly loved, departs leaving only a note; then, Billie, his assistant trainer with a temper to match her red hair, starts coming on a little too strong; and finally the body of his newest conquest, is found floating in a nearby river. An autopsy reveals that she was two months pregnant and Ike wonders if the child could have been his. At this point we begin to comprehend this complicated man.

It’s not only the women in Ike’s life that give him trouble. He has reason to wonder if the owner of the stable is involved in something highly illegal and, as well, clergymen in the area are being murdered and the finger points to one of his women. “Fame and Deceit” is a well-written and exciting look into the fascinating world of breeding stables and world class horsemanship--a world with which both the author and her husband are totally familiar. With her inimitable writing style, it’s not only lovers of fine horseflesh who will enjoy this book.”
This is a very enjoyable book for light summer reading.

Here is a link to Patti’s website:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Price Progress?

A new bridge across the Fraser River opens this weekend. It’s a beautiful thing to see, with its great towers reaching towards the sky against a backdrop of British Columbia’s magnificent snow covered mountains. In the evening just as the sun sets, the rugged peaks of one of those mountains glows a brilliant golden hue. From that phenomenon, the Golden Ears peaks of Mount Blanshard get their name. The provincial park is also called Golden Ears Park and, as the gateway to this park and the north shore mountains, this lovely, modern bridge is to be named the Golden Ears Bridge.

It all sounds very romantic and it will certainly shave time off a trip to the north side of the Fraser Valley but, as with much of modern technology, there is a downside.

Last weekend, the papers had a story about a couple who live just under the bridge on the north shore of the Fraser. He is a fisherman and has lived there all his life—inherited the property from his parents. For some reason, because their land wasn’t needed for the approach to the bridge, they weren’t bought out as most of their neighbours were. So there they’ve sat during the whole two years of building the thing; putting up with the noise of construction; refuse falling from the bridge onto their property; and now it seems that the noise of the traffic overhead will be unbearable. Finally the government has decided to buy them out. One would hope it is at a fair market value but, personally, having owned and lived on property that became designated as a road, I don’t expect they’ll get the real worth of their land.

And it isn’t just this couple that will suffer because of the bridge. Upstream about four miles, a ferry has been the “highway” in this locale for many years. Although it is slow and there are always line-ups, it’s a lovely way to cross the river and made the trip rather special. Now there are over forty people who will have to find new jobs because the ferry will stop operating. The government is doing its best and some will retire but there are a few who will have to relocate to other towns to acquire the same type of job.

There has been a great deal of growth and development here as happens everywhere. I note that, as long as one is not personally affected, we are usually happy about it. I, for one, will enjoy crossing that beautiful bridge with its magnificent view. But at the same time, I know there are always those whose lives are totally disrupted by the march of time and progress. It does seem to be unavoidable.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Holiday Warning

We've had a very hot spell this week in the metro Vancouver area, and I'm feeling a little lazy.So I'm repeating one of my earlier blogs. It's timely for the summer season as well.

In our travels abroad we have encountered many adventures but generally no real danger. However, there was a night in a mountainous region of Mexico when we threw caution to the wind and the ending could have been disastrous.
Our journey had taken us from the turquoise bay and curving, white beaches of Acapulco to the picturesque silver mining town of Taxco, perched precipitously on the slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The views from our hotel were enchanting. After marguerites and lunch at the outdoor restaurant, we strolled along the cobbled streets enjoying our first taste of the real Mexico.
Absorbing the ambience of the main square or Xocalo, we stopped to listen when a handsome young Mexican in a small corner stall asked for a few “minutos” to explain the tour he was offering.
“Senor, Senora, have you seen the Yucatan flyers here in Old Mexico?” he asked. “We offer you an evening of fun and entertainment.” Here was something I truly was interested in. Without even considering the consequences, we purchased the tickets.
As promised, the taxi arrived at our hotel at six o’clock, just as the sun was setting behind the western peaks of the high Sierras. Night falls quickly in the tropics and, by the time we had travelled a few blocks through the town, darkness enveloped us. Soon we left all signs of civilization behind as the road wound higher into the surrounding jungle.
For the first time a sense of vulnerability hit me. I thought of people who had disappeared without a trace in other Latin countries. A man we’d heard about, living in a rented house in Puerto Vallarta, disappeared from sight along with his whole family one day, never to be heard from again.
No one at home knew of this new addition to our itinerary. Was this a trick? Were these a group of ‘banditos’ who would murder us high in these mountains hoping to get our money and our passports? Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. I moved closer to my husband and took his hand. He smiled reassuringly at me but in the small glow of light from the dashboard, I noticed his face had taken on an anxious look.
Just as panic was about to overtake me, we emerged into a clearing in the trees. Besides the outside arena where the pole for the Yucatan performers was set up, there in the middle of this jungle hideaway was a large, round building from which emanated revolving coloured lights and loud music—a Mexican disco!
Well, the show did go on—we had our evening of fun and entertainment—but the lesson I learned that night in a Mexican jungle about using discretion when travelling will never be forgotten.

Sadly from time-to-time we do hear of these disappearances: a young girl on a vacation with fellow graduates disappears in Aruba; a passenger on a cruise ship to Alaska, after stopping at Victoria, B.C., is never seen again.
It pays to use common sense when travelling abroad just as it does in our own cities. There are areas in Vancouver that I would never walk through—day or night. So—just a reminder—over the summer holiday period, use discretion and stay safe.